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Father demands justice after student beaten to death in Bangladesh

10 October 2019, theguardian PrintShare on Facebook

The father of an engineering student who was beaten to death at his university halls in Bangladesh has demanded justice for his son, as protests against politically motivated attacks on campuses continued.

Abrar Fahad, 22, who was allegedly targeted after he criticised the government in a Facebook post, was found dead at his university halls of residence in Dhaka on Monday.

It is claimed that he was attacked by students linked to the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), an influential student wing of prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League.

Barkat Ullah, Fahad’s father, said his son had hoped to study a PhD, and wanted to serve his country. “The university administration has to take strict measures to stop such incidents,” he said. “They should know what’s happening inside their dormitory. They have to hold them accountable.

“If they can do that, then maybe these kind of incidents will stop happening.”

Fahad’s death has caused outrage across the country, prompting protests this week by students at the universities of Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, and demands for authorities to clampdown on political violence on campuses.

Human rights groups have condemned groups such as BCL, which have been accused of beating student protesters and stifling debate. Last year, university and school students who had launched a protest calling for greater road safety were beaten with sticks and machetes in attacks widely blamed on the Awami League and its youth wing.

Authorities took no action against those carrying out the violence, according to Human Rights Watch, but instead detained the protesting students.

A first year student from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) in Dhaka, where Fahad was studying, said students did not feel safe in halls of residences. “We never speak freely,” he said.

Fahad was in his second year at Buet, the most competitive university in the country, where he was studying electrical and electronic engineering.

Friends said he was attacked because he had recently written a Facebook post criticising deals signed during Hasina’s recent visit to New Delhi. These included controversial deals on water sharing and on exporting petroleum gas to India, which many argued were not in the country’s interests.

According to an autopsy report, he died of severe internal bleeding from beatings with blunt objects such as cricket game stumps or sticks.

“Fahad was a very simple person. He had a naive mind. My son, he wanted to go abroad for higher study,” Ullah said.

Amnesty International South Asia described his murder as a “horrific crime that must be investigated immediately”.

“Abrar was only exercising his peaceful right to freedom of expression in his Facebook posts criticising the government,” the human rights group said in a statement.

Hasina has promised justice to Fahad’s family. At least 11 students have reportedly been arrested in connection with his murder.

On Wednesday, hundreds of students and teachers took part in a silent procession at Buet. A second student at the university, who also wished to be anonymous, said that the humiliation and beatings of students had been repeatedly ignored by Buet’s leadership.

“The ragging [bullying and beating] has always been a massive problem. For many past incidents, we reported them to authorities. But they never took any serious action. And this was a result of their negligence,” the student said.

“The perpetrators never thought they’d face any consequences,” he added. “It’s a shame that someone has to get killed to bring the issue under spotlight.”

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